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Home Articles G.I.Joe Yearbook #3 (March 1987)

Joes on Television

Will G.I.Joe win its war against the secret terrorist organization Cobra this year? The truth is - the war is going to get worse!

The big trouble starts in September of 1986 with the origin of Serpentor, introduced in the 5 part mini-series "Arise, Serpentor, Arise!"

From that point on, G.I.Joe will find itself trapped in a deadly snake pit of conflict that keeps growing and growing until it finally comes together in a stunning climax! After that...well, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

First, a recap. In 1982, G.I.Joe hit the home screen with a series of thrilling, full-animation commercials announcing the toy line and comic book series. So blown away was everyone by the incredibly realistic and action-packed spots that a special animated series was immediately ordered. The overwhelming response to that debut in 1983 promptly led to another mini-series in 1984 and finally to the first regular G.I.Joe cartoon series in 1985. Aired five times a week on stations all across the country, the thirty-minute G.I.Joe animated television show set a whole new standard in full-animation entertainment.

Looking back on all the records they had already broken, the creative teams on the series asked themselves, "How can we top this?" Their answer was to build on their strengths of solidly-written, hard-hitting stories and exceptional animation to produce an incredible climax to the G.I.Joe/Cobra war.

And what a climax!

The war escalates, as stated earlier, with the fourth G.I.Joe mini-series which reveals the incredible origin of Serpentor. Those of you who read Serpentor’s origin in G.I.Joe #s 49 and 50 will go wild when you see how the conflict, with its breath-taking shoot-out in Washington, D.C., looks in full-animation!

Story Editor Buzz Dixon spoke briefly about the story: "In the mini-series, we have a very, very brief scene where we get a hint of a much larger and more sinister secret behind Cobra - that as big and dangerous Cobra is, it is just a front organization." As to who, or what, could be strong enough to pull Cobra’s strings, only those who watch the show will learn that astonishing answer.

For the rest of the season, the new episodes will focus on new characters and realistic situations. If anything, the drama will be more gripping than ever. And as for the characters, well, what would G.I.Joe be with out its huge cast?

In addition to General Hawk, Duke and the other old hands, the Joes’ new third-in-command, Beach Head, the Marine Leatherneck and the naval Joe he loves to hate, Wet Suit.

Lifeline is a unique character in the Joe ranks. Lifeline is a pacifist paramedic. Lifeline is not a coward. He is a very brave man, but he is total, complete and dedicated pacifist. So much so, that he will refuse to even grab a rifle held out to save him from drowning.

Lift-Ticket is the pilot of the rescue helicopter called a Tomahawk. He’s the kind of fellow who would shoot first and ask questions later. But his job is to ferry Lifeline and the wounded Joes out of trouble. The best way to describe Lift Ticket’s and Lifeline’s working relationship would be to imagine Charles Bronson flying Alan Alda around in a gun-bursting first-aid helicopter filled with wounded soldiers.

Low-Light is the Joes’ sniper. He’s tight-lipped and withdrawn - very unsociable. He was badly mistreated by his father when he was growing up. If Low-Light was a Cobra, he’d fit right in, but as a Joe, Low-Light is pretty unusual.

Mainframe is one of the oldest active Joes. He is with them because he is a top-flight computer expert who hates his byte-filled life and would love to throw it all away for a chance at combat.

Dial-Tone is their communications expert who barely made the Joes’ ranks and faces being cut at any moment. He’s a nice guy, but a real techno-nerd.

Cross Country is a fearless - some of the Joes think reckless - driver of the new Joe vehicular fortress, the HAVOC. He’s a good ol’ boy from the Appalachia who sometimes gets wild in combat.

On the Cobra side, one of the most diabolical members is Dr. Mindbender, the Cobra Interrogator. He is a master of psychological terror who gives even the new Cobras the creeps. Two new Dreadnoks will make the scene: Monkey Wrench, an explosive expert, and a berserker-type called Thrasher who drives the Thunder Machine, a "Road Warrior"-type vehicle that is the Dreadnok equivalent of a HAVOC. Two new specialized groups of Cobra forces will be seen, the Strato-Vipers, an elite squadron of pilots who fly the Cobra spy-jets, the Night Ravens which are based on the U.S. Air Force’s SR-71. The Joes will find themselves battling Sea Vipers and Arctic Vipers as well. But perhaps the most dangerous group is the unpredictable, almost unstoppable, BATs.

The B.A.T.s are Battle Android Troopers. Cobra uses these robots as shock wave forces when the going really gets rough. The trouble is, once a BAT is turned on, there is no telling which direction it is going to attack. The result is that Cobra will find themselves fighting as much as the Joes will.

The trip G.I.Joe takes to get to the television screen is long, difficult, exacting, but very rewarding. It starts with Hasbro Toys, working together with G.I.Joe comic book writer Larry Hama, to create the characters that the fans want. Hasbro defines each characters’ role in the G.I.Joe team and Larry fleshes out the character, giving him name, rank, serial number and everything he or she needs to have a believable, exciting identity. From there, the character travels to Sunbow Productions.

It is at Sunbow that the writers receive story assignments for new episodes. Buzz Dixon, Story Editor for the 1986 series, stated that the stories for the 1986-87 season are top-quality. Buzz credits the scripts’ overall high quality to G.I.Joe’s previous Story Editor, Steve Gerber. "Steve did a dynamite job in getting the show organized in 1985 and setting the groundwork. It was Steve’s tremendous contribution in 1985 that we made 1986. Through him, we got some outstanding writers. This year viewers can expect to see stories by Steve, Flint Dille, Mary Skrenes, Gerry and Carla Conway, Sharman Di Vono, Marv Wolfman, David Carren, Michael Hill and many others."

When Sunbow is satisfied that the writers of these shows have achieved or surpassed their standards of action and plot, and have held true to all the characters, the script is then sent to Marvel Productions for animation.

The task is taking an action-filled script crammed with characters and turning it into an even more impressive program might seem daunting to some, but for Production Supervisor Sam Weiss, it is just the beginning of an exciting challenge.

The first thing Sam does is check to see if it is possible to do the story within the budget. If not, "...I make suggestions to ways around the problems - a way to tell the story that’s trying to be told in some way more feasible in terms of production," Sam said. Once those problems are fixed, Sam brings in his storyboard men. There are three acts to each episode and one storyboard man for each act. The critical thing is to integrate the styles of the different storyboard men so that the whole episode flows smoothly visually. The reason one person cannot storyboard a whole show is because, as Sam said, "It takes two or three weeks for one act. Because of our production schedule, we can’t wait six to nine weeks for one person, so we divide the story among three artists." The artists Sam uses are Doug Vandegrift, Mario Piluso, Sherman Labby, Keith Tucker and two well-known comic book artists, Adrian Gonzalez and Mike Vosburg.

The script is broken down into storyboards, which are visual breakdowns of the story done much in the same way a comic book script is transformed into penciled comic art. With the storyboards complete, dialogue is revised and polished for the recording sessions. At the recording session actors read the script, verbally acting out the episode.

Their dialogue track will then be supplemented with music and special effects noises, like explosions, engine sounds, etc., to make a complete soundtrack. Then the soundtrack, storyboards, key environment illustrations - the highly detailed locations judged most important in the story - go to Japan where the animation is created. Using the illustrations as reference and the soundtrack for pacing, the animation artists begin the long, step-by-step process of creating an animated story on individual clear plastic sheets called cels, which are individual shots of action similar to the single frames of a reel of movie film.

After the thousands of cels are drawn, they are carefully filmed in order one at a time to produce the first, unedited version of the cartoon, called the rough cut. This rough cut is sent to the United States where it is edited and where revisions are requested. "Only after Hasbro, Sunbow and Marvel Productions are all completely satisfied, is the episode allowed to air."

What will happen to G.I.Joe and Cobra on television in 1987? "Changes," Buzz Dixon said. "Expect Cobra to be dramatically restructured. It will not resemble the Cobra of before. There will be big changes with G.I.Joe. The Rawhides and Renegades will be introduced, and will play a big part. Another thing is that 1987 will premiere a whole new series of high-tech vehicles for both the Joes and Cobra. They will reflect the big upward shift in the nature of the G.I.Joe/Cobra conflict."


Jan 25: G.I.Joe Examined on Podcasts
Jan 25: Buzz Dixon Interview
Jan 25: Paulsen Annie Nomination & Dini on Batman Comic
Jan 12: Sgt. Slaughter Signing in Atlanta
Jan 11: G.I.Joe to Return on G4
Dec 30: Paramount Movie Reviewer Plugs JoeGuide.com
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